Mental Health Series: Panic Attacks – Andrew
What’s your general panic (or PA) attack story?
Started with dizzy feeling and heart beating irregular then I would catastrophize to the point where I thought I was dying and be stuck in a state of paralyzing fear. It made me scared to go out and interact with people or in public because I thought I was going to pass out or have some sort of health emergency.
What do your panic attack generally feel like?
My panic attacks come on as waves of intense fear is the best way I could describe them. My worst ones felt like I was having a heart attack and like I was going to die.
Have you ever had a panic attack while running?
Yes. Because I had this fear of passing out I would start to feel the symptoms on runs and I couldn’t train anymore. I went to every doctor and nutritionist and besides not eating enough sometimes I was very healthy and blaming the problems on health things which was making the problem worse.
How have panic attacks affected your training?
They had a lot to do with me stopping training and my running career. That along with finding other things I was interested in so it wasn’t 100% because of that.
How has managing your panic attacks morphed over time?
It took me a year to realize what was happening so after all the doctors appointments I finally went to therapy and started the to understand the causes behind them. I had a lot of things bottled up that I couldn’t imagine could have the physical effect on me that they did.
What has helped you manage them most successfully?
Therapy and eventually medicine helped me the most. I realized in therapy that I was taking an allergy drug that made me suicidal and have psychotic episodes. At the time I just thought I was going crazy, so after all that became my downward spiral of my mental health.
What has been helpful for the people around you to do during a panic attack?
Don’t try to fight it. Be kind to yourself and know you’re okay. Definitely find help from other people, have a go to personal to let know how you’re feeling. For me I had to practice for months reminding myself I’m okay. Check out cognitive behavioral therapy, that helped me a lot.
What advice, support or encouragement would you offer someone else struggling with panic attack?
I’v learned that everyone has something similar to this so you’re not alone. Biggest thing that helped me was therapy, which can be scary at first, but it’s not as scary as you think. I felt so much better after every therapy session and have grown so much since I started.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
PA’s are the worst thing ever in the moment, but once you start to understand them they get so much better/ go away. Get to talking to people about it and do your best to understand it with a medical professional.
Be careful what you read on the internet too, because if it’s making your anxiety worse, get off it and talk with a professional. Remember You’re okay.
This Mental Health Series on panic attacks was created to help us all feel less alone in our anxiety. If you’d like to contribute to the project, please submit your own story here: Panic Attack Survey.